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'Why we passed new media laws', Job Ndugai

Saturday June 20 2020
Job Ndugai

Dar es Salaam. The Speaker of the 11th Union Parliament, Job Ndugai, revealed yesterday that the new media laws were strategically enacted by Parliament check ‘indiscipline’ among opposition lawmakers.

The Media Services Act, 2016, the Access to Information Act (ATI), 2016 and the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 were duly enacted by Parliament.

Media stakeholders and human rights groups have strongly opposed the laws, terming them as draconian.

They blame the new legislations for adversely affecting smooth functioning of the mass media industry following fines, jail terms, banning orders and deregistration of newspapers.

Yesterday, Speaker Ndugai told a local television channel during a live interview that the laws and regulations were pointedly enacted by Parliament to control media organizations that neglected or turned their backs against CCM legislators - and, instead, provided political mileage to opposition MPs.

He said the media was challenged to take both CCM and opposition law-makers to account instead of backing ‘misbehaving’ opposition lawmakers.“It is true that Parliament has tightened the media.

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But, if you would have asked CCM lawmakers during formulation of respective laws, they would have suggested that the laws were not tough enough,” he said.He said tolerating the misconduct by some MPs in Parliament was similar to playing with a time bomb in his hands of a child.

Mr Ndugai admitted that indiscipline was a major challenge of the 11th Parliament, suggesting that was a reason for imposing a ban on live coverage of Parliamentary debates.“Former Speaker Samuel Sitta and the 9th Parliament were known for live coverage of parliamentary proceedings.

But, we were forced to ban live Bunge coverage because of indis-cipline by the minority,” he said. “MPs are role models. It was a challenge to give an indiscipline lawmaker live coverage for five consecu-tive years,” he said.

He claimed Parliamentary Standing Orders were not designed to deal with such types of MPs, who despite being considered heroes they have done nothing to bring development.

March, last year, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruled that multiple sections of Tanzania’s Media Services Act (MSA) restrict press freedom and freedom of expression, calling on the State to repeal the act.

In a ruling on an application filed by three Tanzanian NGOs, the court declared that multiple sections of the law including those on sedition, criminal defamation and false news publication restricted press freedom, freedom of expression and breached the treaty of the East African Community.

Therefore, the EACJ directed the government to “take necessary measures” to bring the law into compliance with the Treaty.

But, yesterday, Mr Ndugai defended Parliament against claims that it had become a rubber stamp of the Executive in the last five years, saying the House was fulfilling its responsibilities.“The government has been strong in the last five years - and Parliament was strong too,” Ndugai insisted.

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